You ever played UNCLE? If you’re a guy, chances are good. To play uncle – you put your friend in some kind of submission lock in order to get them to say “UNCLE.” Could be a noogie, a headlock or maybe a pinkie lock – something that eventually will cause your friend to give up.
I remember one time in high school – a friend put me in a head lock -- with his legs. And it hurt. He kept saying, “Say uncle. Say uncle.”
For a minute.
For ten minutes.
For like half an hour. (Which is a real long time to have your skull pressed between two thighs.)
And it hurt. And I was a sweaty mess. And I was tired.
But I didn’t say UNCLE!
Sometimes humans don’t know when to quit. But when it comes to God, we better know.
Today we are continuing our series on the book of Joshua. This will be interesting because we will be looking at the conquest of the Promised Land from the perspective of the Canaanites. As the Israelites get ready to attack, we will get a glimpse about how the people in Canaan were reacting to the impending invasion – particularly in 2 ways – fight or forfeit. Our goal is to examine both of those reactions and see which one is the reaction God wants. (It might not be the reaction you expect.)
Before we do, let’s say a prayer – O Lord, strengthen us by the truth, your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see. Open our ears to hear what you want us to hear. Open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
I. The Story
Our lesson this morning comes from Joshua 2. It takes place right after Joshua and those leaders start gathering forces together for the invasion. Subsequently, a few members go to do some special ops for Joshua. It says, Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
A couple things to note:
Shittim (Shi-team) is an area just to the east of the Jordan river. It was not in the Promised Land. That was where the Israelites were camping out.
Jericho was in the promised land. In fact, it was the closest metropolis – near to where he Israelites were located. It was a place that had a booming population. It was also well known for its giant stone wall.
And finally, when the spies get there – they stay at the house of a prostitute named Rahab. I really wish that we knew how exactly this happened. Since it’s not written, there could be a lot of ways. Here’s a possible scenario:
The spies enter the city – wearing head coverings and keeping their heads low. (They even have fake moustaches.) They walk through the streets making note of the wall’s height, looking for weaknesses and counting the guards. As evening arrives, they make their way to the local pub, order a couple of pints and sit down in the corner to discuss strategy.
But they don’t go unnoticed. At a table close by, is a group of soldiers. One of them with a blue sash indicating his status as a captain. They keep looking over at them. Did they know? In fact, I think I saw one of them point? Should we get out of here/ --- Nah, play it cool. Play it cool.
And then as they shakily bring up a lager to their lips – the group of men get up. They begin walking in their direction. Slowly, methodically, from across the bar. One of the spies reaches down and puts his hand on the dagger attached to his thigh.
Then, a voice: Hey, do you need a place to stay?
They jump. But turn around to find a beautiful woman. Big hooped earrings, long flowing hair, paintings and tattoos adorning her body – piercing blue eyes and a gentle smile.
I said – Do you need a place to stay tonight?
The spies look at her. They look at the soldiers and decide quickly.
They grab her arm and head out of the bar – quickly getting lost in the downtown shuffle of people. They walk quickly – not too fast to arouse suspicion – but not so slow that the soldiers might catch them. Until they make their way to a tiny apartment. Through here! She says. As the men walk in and the woman begins to lock the door, they look around her one roomed habitat. There’s a tattered run on the floor, a few dead bugs on the window sill and dirty pots near the corner of a big barrel which was supposed to be the kitchen.
“I’m Rahab,” the woman said as she fetched a glass of water. “Welcome to my home. What’s your name?”
Before the men could answer, there’s a loud knock at the door. Everyone stopped. Rahab held a finger to her lips. The knock happened again. Who is it?
The Jericho Police. Open up!
Just a minute – I’m powdering my nose. She motioned for the men to head out back where they found a rickety wooden ladder. She pointed up. Coming! She repeated, as mouthed the words, “up there.”
The men wandered to the top of the ladder and found themselves on the roof. Quickly, they rearranged the flax stalks – ancient shingles – and hide beneath them.
Meanwhile, Rahab unbarred the door. How can I help you gentlemen?
We’ve been sent by order of the king. Now…Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land. (v.3)
From their flax hiding space, the spies’ hearts began to race.
Now – she knew what they were.
Now – she knew their intentions.
Surely, she was about to give them up.
“Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” (v.4-5)
The captain looked at her. He looked around the house. He looked at her beautiful eyes one more time and said, “OK. Well…It’s not your fault. We’ll go get them. Don’t you worry about it. I’ll make sure you’re protected.’ And with that, they turned and left.
After the captain and his men were a good distance away, Rahab opened the back door and went up to the men on the roof. Thank you, ma’am. You didn’t have to do that.
Yes, I did. She said, “I know who you are. I know what you’ve done. I know who you serve. I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt...When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below. Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign that you will spare the lives of my family—and that you will save us from death.” (v.9-13)
The men looked at one another.
Was she serious?
She was a foreigner.
She wasn’t an Israelite.
And…I mean, she was a prostitute – that was against all kind of God’s commandments.
Should they really spare her?
Would God really spare her?
Would God really show her mercy?
The answer was obvious:
“Our lives for your lives! If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”
In other words:
Yes. You will be spared.
Yes. God will have mercy.
This story is very interesting. Rahab’s fear of God’s power and appeal to his mercy is very compelling. But – do note – that was NOT the most common response to the reality of the impending invasion. All the people were afraid, but the majority of them did what the King wanted to do – FIGHT.
I’ll tell you the truth -- it’s the same thing today.
This past week the MN youth group was going door-to-door with fliers that talk about our church. While they weren’t doing any kind of Jehovah’s Witness type stuff, they were knocking on doors and inviting people to church – inviting people to hear about Jesus.
One guy – when they introduced themselves and handed him a flier – were interrupted – as he reached behind his door and pulled out a flier of his own. The flier? A brief print out of trespassing laws here in Raleigh. “I’ll give you five minutes to leave or I’m calling the police.”
Now you might argue that it’s not very much fun to have strangers knock at your door – but the fact remains that he threatened police involvement with a pair of teens that were simply inviting them to come hear about Jesus’ love and forgiveness.
The reality is deeper, because God was working through those kids.
God approached that man.
He saw God coming.
And he decided to fight.
This is not uncommon. Romans 8:7 says this, “The sinful mind is hostile to God.” Hostile means unfriendly – a foe. It means that the sinful mind of humans is naturally an enemy of God. That’s why when God approaches – when God comes with his law and his word – our natural response is to fight!
Sometimes it sounds like, “Get off my porch.”
Sometimes it sounds like:
That’s an antiquated Law.
I don’t like that command from God.
God’s the one who’s the bully – why doesn’t he let me live my life?
And suddenly, we’re just like the king of Jericho.
We’re fighting God.
The problem? Notice the promise of the spies – they were going to keep Rahab safe – but all the other people? The king? The soldiers? Those who knew what God was capable of and still decided to fight him?
God would battle them.
And God would win.
Because you can’t fight God and win.
TRUTH #1: Fighting God Fails For Sure in other words – It never works!
It’s even more true with God. Don’t fight Him.
You can’t win.
He never loses.
Instead, do as Rahab did. Rahab’s response – is so different. She forfeits.
And look at her reason: I know that the Lord has given you this land…I know how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt. And I know that God helped you win battles.
In other words – Rahab knew the LORD.
And that’s the difference. While all of her fellow countrymen were ready to fight, Rahab was ready to forfeit.
I give up. Lord, please spare me.
God, have mercy.
And HE does.
TRUTH #2: A faith-filled forfeit is exactly what it takes to achieve victory!
In fact, that’s exactly what Scripture says about Rahab’s victory. Take a look at Hebrews 11:31 “By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.” Notice the reason she wasn’t killed. It was faith. Faith in God’s mercy.
What’s incredible here is the sheer number of factors that were running against her faith.
- Her Race. She was a Jerichoian or Jerichoite…whatever. She wasn’t an Israelite. That means she had not been given the promise of the Promised Land. How could she expect to live in the Promised Land when she had never been in the Promised Land? How could she expect God to have mercy?
- Her Job. It wasn’t like she had some kind of job that appears “good” by human standards. She wasn’t a social worker. She wasn’t a doctor. She wasn’t a food pantry worker. She was a prostitute. It’s a job that – even unbelievers – look down upon and say, “That’s not a good job. At least, I’m not that bad.”
How could you possibly expect God’s mercy when she had spent her life – making $$$ for breaking the 6th commandment and causing others to do the same?
And she was right.
What that means is that it does not matter if you’ve been a prostitute.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a drugs dealer.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been a pornography producer, an abortionist or even a terrorist supporter.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been anything that’s led to any kind of sin, when you appeal to God’s grace, you will be forgiven!
Because God’s mercy is greater than your sins.
So – don’t fight him. Forfeit. Know when to give up and submit to your Lord.
A faith-filled forfeit is the key to victory. Amen.